Any Excuse for a Party – and This was One Hell of a Party

The ‘launch’ of a thriller book, set in the 70s highlighting sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll? It could be traditionally tiring and unexciting, and wasteful and illegal, but rock music can save the day. And it did.
Gig reviews are supposed to be objective and critical. Apologies. I will write nothing negative about the two sets by Pouk Hill Prophetz at the launch of my latest book, Vinyl Junkie at The Exeter Arms, Derby, on Saturday. (Maybe the fleeting instant when the bass went out of tune – ha ha!)
Rock music is almost by definition meant to be played loud and amplified; asking a band to do an acoustic set is breaking the mould. Pouk Hill Prophetz rose to the challenge during the afternoon – when, perhaps, the city’s daytime shoppers didn’t want their meanderings interrupted by decibels. Unplugging places immense pressure on voices and dexterity of sticks and fingers: there is no hiding mistakes under volume.
Nige Hart is one of those vocalists who can wring emotion out of a song, even and especially a rock track, and shush a crowd prone to drink and chat. Drummer Trev West cannot drive the rhythm forward as he would alongside a thundering bass, but with restrained power he has to keep the beat exactly right. Martin Brooks is a lead guitarist who, like some of the great names in rock, puts precision and fluidity right at the top of his skills list. Together Pouk Hill Prophetz played a formidable acoustic set.
I have no need to repeat the praise that emanated from everyone there. Their attentiveness, applause and frequently repeated comments of adulation were more than enough. Like all bands, PHP need someone behind the scenes who knows and loves the music, with the technical skills to keep the band on track. Thanks to sound man and musician Pete Heyward – a brilliant job accomplished with aplomb.
As the light faded, Pouk Hill Prophetz, now out of their Vinyl Junkie T-shirt ‘uniforms’, took up their instruments for a session that would leave The Exeter breathless and rocking. They looked the part: top-hatted and flowing, Martin strutted the frets and was a powerhouse expertise of finger-picking; Trev on drums is an animated piledriver with subtlety; and Nige is the undisputed front man of ‘glam rock’ (as Trev said while they waited for Nige to ‘reveal’ his stage gear: “He’ll come out of there like Liberace on crack!”)
I’ve said it before. I repeat. Pouk Hill Prophetz are not a ‘tribute band’ of anybody. They play the music of the 70s, and Nige Hart and Martin Brooks pay homage to the ‘glam’, but the priority is always the music – and they don’t half play it well.
Hellraiser crashed out. Better than sex, more satisfying than drugs, this is a rock ‘n roll classic to get limbs pumping, feet moving and heads swaying. There are fewer better tracks to blast cobwebs away and raise the temperature. The pace continued with Tie Your Mother Down, followed by the intensity of 20th Century Boy, a wonderful tribute to Marc Bolan.
Slade, the greatest glam rock band of the decade (I’ll take no argument), featured heavily with Know Who You Are, Darling Be Home Soon, and Cum on Feel The Noize, but they were interspersed with ZZ Top and Sweet. We’re moving slowly, and sadly, to a final climax. Born To Be Wild – which I first heard live in December 1970 in Derby – thundered out. Pouk Hill Prophetz have grasped that track: it’s an anthem to youth that is not doomed, but blossoming; it needs heart and soul as well as controlled fury, and the band gave it everything.
Long Tall Medley demonstrated a growing, and justified, confidence in PHP’s ability as a rock trio and the audience, now augmented by happy crowds from the ‘public’ rooms of the great pub, bopped along. It was time to go and Mama Weer All Crazee Now roared out of Nige’s mouth, augmented by the tired, happy, singalong crowd.
The day had not looked good: Cloudy and cool, and a lunchtime spotted with lonely raindrops. Pouk Hill Prophetz couldn’t shift the clouds, but they raised the temperature with a searingly good, highly practised and totally professional blast from a past that so many of us remember so well.
Book Launches: I’ve seen authors read their books to attentive fans; I’ve heard actors transform the written word into magical performances; I’ve drunk cheap red and warm white wines – never have I been to the ideal location for the actual book (a proper pub – that’s frequently mentioned in Vinyl Junkie), and where a top class, band of exemplary musicians playing tracks from the very era of the book, turned staid tradition into a loud, joyous and rocking party. Thank you Pouk Hill Prophetz and Pete the soundman.

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